Featured The Votive Deposit in Field 49

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Sulla80, Apr 1, 2020.

  1. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Another Roman provincial coin caught my interest…this coin, like the others, leading to undiscovered people, places, culture and events (at least undiscovered by me). After some wandering I found this monograph by Jane DeRose Evans in “COINS FROM THE EXCAVATIONS AT SARDIS: THEIR ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND ECONOMIC CONTEXTS, COINS FROM THE 1973 TO 2013 EXCAVATIONS”, a worthwhile read at the intersection of numismatics and archeology. I enjoyed the readable descriptions of challenges and methods to establish context for coins e.g.
    • Circulation: how fast, how many, how far and how long
    • Date of coins, artifacts or strata
    • Purpose of local and imperial coins
    • Source mints: where, when, and how they operated
    • Find types: primary, secondary, tertiary as deposited coins move from initial location
    First, where is Sardis?

    What caught my attention
    in the monograph was section 3.3.1 under the title that I used for this post, “The Votive Deposit in Field 49”. The author describes finds from an area that held moderately wealthy homes in the 1st century AD. Below the floor of one room of a home was a “ritual deposit” or “votive”:

    “The intact vessels of the deposit consisted of a pair of identical, locally-made bowls, one of which was flipped over and placed on top of the other. Inside the bowl was found a complete eggshell, pierced by a small hole in order to empty its contents; one bronze nail; one long bronze needle; two badly-corroded iron implements that appear to feature decoration, one of which was stuck to a small white pebble; and a coin, giving a terminus post quem of 65 AD to the entire deposit”
    -Jane DeRose Evans

    Why was this odd collection of objects placed beneath the floor? Similar deposits from an early 20th century excavation, and a second find about a meter away at the same site, suggest that this is a ritual offering to “to protect the new structure and those who lived there from malevolent forces”. This region in Asia Minor has a lot of seismic activity, and Emmanuela Guidaboni catalogs major earthquakes in the region in AD 17, 23, 47, 53, and 60. These are the big ones - in an area where minor earthquakes are much more common. Tacitus describes the one in AD 17:

    In the same year, twelve important cities of Asia collapsed in an earthquake, the time being night, so that the havoc was the less foreseen and the more devastating. Even the usual resource in these catastrophes, a rush to open ground, was unavailing, as the fugitives were swallowed up in yawning chasms. Accounts are given of huge mountains sinking, of former plains seen heaved aloft, of fires flashing out amid the ruin.
    -Tacitus, Annals 2.47

    @Gary R. Wilson wrote about a sestertius of Tiberius commemorating his aid to affected cities. Earthquakes may have been one of the malevolent forces against which the votive was protection for a new house and family members.

    Is there a coin any time soon? The coin that is described in this votive is nearly the same type as my recently purchased coin from Sardis – same magistrate, same city, same time period, same Zeus reverse, similar flan, different obverse. This is the coin, with Nero on the obverse, RPC 3007, and mine a similar coin with the Senate on the obverse in place of Nero (and for its purpose - Zeus was certainly the more useful side of the coin).

    Lydia Sardes TI. Mnaseas.jpg
    Lydia, Sardis (aka Silandos), Pseudo-autonomous, Time of Nero (54-68), Ae, Ti. Kl. Mnaseas, strategos.
    Obv: ΘЄON CVNKΛHTON, draped youthful bust of the Senate right
    Rev: ЄΠΙ ΤΙ ΜΝΑCЄΟΥ CΑΡΔΙΑΝΩΝ (retrograde), Zeus standing left, holding eagle and scepter
    Size: 4.16 g, 20 mm
    Ref: RPC 3008; BMC 62

    This coin is described as “pseudo-autonomous” which raises the question of “what is pseudo-autonomous?”. As an answer, I like this 1985 paper by Ann Johnston, which after a careful assessment, concludes unceremoniously:

    “The conclusions from these investigations are therefore unavoidably negative: the "pseudo-autonomous" Greek Imperials are no different from any other Greek Imperials and their types have nothing to do with autonomy. It would be better if they were referred to simply as "coins without imperial heads" until a handy descriptive term is formulated. The ultimate moral of the tale is surely a good one for numismatists to keep in mind: there is not necessarily a deep significance lurking behind every coin type.”
    - Ann Johnston

    Jane DeRose Evans comments similarly in her monograph, citing several more recent sources: “

    “where the lack of emperors’ portraits on the coins were considered a measure of autonomy for the city (hence, “pseudo-autonomous coins” for those without Imperial portraits), this no longer seems a valid distinction; it does not appear that the city needed permission from the emperor to mint.”
    - Jane DeRose Evans

    Here’s another coin of Lydia with the bust of the Senate from a bit later (again pseudo-anonymous) and from Apollonis, which was 300 stadia (very roughly 50km) from Sardis:
    Lydia Apollonia Senate.jpg
    Lydia, Apollonis, Pseudo-autonomous issue circa AD 69-92, Flavian era, Bronze Æ
    Obv: ΑΠΟΛΛΟΝΙΔЄΩΝ, Draped bust of Apollo right.
    Rev: ΙЄΡΑ CVNKΛHTOC Draped bust of the Senate right.
    Size: 15 mm, 2.15g
    Ref: RPC 952A

    I am now on the hunt for a couple of locally-made bowls, an eggshell, a bronze nail, a bronze needle, a couple of decorated iron implements and a small white pebble - if it worked for earthquakes, maybe it works for other malevolent forces…

    I still have many unanswered questions with these coins – The item(s) in Zeus’ hand looks a bit different than others on RPC? When did the Senate personified first appear on coins and over what range of mints? ….As always corrections, and additions are appreciated. Post your recipes for protective votives, coins of The Senate, Lydia, or anything else that you find interesting or entertaining.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2020
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  3. Jims Coins

    Jims Coins Supporter! Supporter

    Lydia - Sardis SARDEIS 804 OBV.jpg SARDEIS 804 REV.jpg
    Date 2nd – 1st century B.C AE15.
    Obv. Laureate head of Apollo right.
    Rev. EAPOI/ANuN either side of club, monogram beneath, all within oak-wreath.

    GCVSII #4736. ABCAM #804.
  4. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Smyrna, Ionia, AE25 Head of the Senate / Tyche - time of Valerian?

    This bothers me:
    The author here dwells on the word 'autonomous' but ignored 'Pseudo'. The meaning of 'pseudo-autonomous' is exactly that. The coins were 'as-if' they were autonomous but they most certainly were not. They were faking it. If they really were claiming autonomy, would they have used so many heads of the Senate? We don't always have a good grasp on when these coins were made. I could see them being issued in times when the safe Roman emperor to honor was less than certain so they issued a sort of Sede-Vacente coin. No, I can't prove that one but some cities including Smyrna might have wanted to take care they did not honor someone who might turn out to be the loser so the Senate seemed safer. Is this the Senate in Rome or a local Cynkletos?
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  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Informative and well-written. The coins are cool, too!

    Here's a pseudo-autonomous/quasi-autonomous one from Smyrna featuring a personification of the senate on the obverse:

    Time of Commodus.
    Pseudo-autonomous Æ 26.1 mm, 8.01 g, 5 h.
    Ionia, Smyrna, Strategos Kl. Stratoneikianos, AD 182-184.
    Obv: ΙЄΡΑ ϹVΝ [ΚΛΗΤΟϹ], draped bust of Senate, right.
    Rev: CΤΡ•CΤΡΑΤΟΝЄΚ[ΙΑΝΟV СΜVΡΝΑΙΩΝ], Winged Nemesis of Smyrna, advancing right, plucking chiton and holding bridle.
    Refs: RPC IV 278 (temp); Klose XV series B, 7–10; SNG Cop. 1304 (same dies).
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  6. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Nice coin - I have one of the same or close:
    Lydia Sardeis Blu.jpg
    Lydia, Sardes, Circa 133 BC-AD 14, AE15
    Obv: Laureate head of Apollo to right
    Rev: ΣAPΔIANΩN Club; all within laurel wreath; to right, monogram

    Hi Doug, I appreciate the exchange. My personal experience would support a view that it is human nature to go about day to day life not too concerned about distant overlords or even having disdain for their insensitivity to my reality, the challenge would be to see some evidence that coins expressed or supported this. I found the arguments in Ann Johnston's paper compelling at a broad level i.e. without specific evidence, a more neutral assumption is appropriate. There are some interesting notes on dating in the article as well e.g. "The Senates evolve from Theos to Hiera Synkletos, the changeover taking place roughly in the period from Domitian to Trajan".

    A few other notes that I found interesting (paraphrased a bit for brevity)
    • The Senate type is found exclusively (with one exception noted) in the Province of Asia, a province administered by the Senate in the imperial period from 133 B.C. when the Pergamene kingdom was willed to Rome
    • The autonomous issues were not apparently treated at all differently in circulation, they have been found outside their own cities and were counter-marked elsewhere
    • The geographical distribution of the "pseudo-autonomous" issues is roughly that of all Greek Imperials
    • For any category of coins with imperial portrait one can find other examples without
    • Smyrna is called out as unusual for striking exclusively autonomous issues and certain unchanging autonomous types over a period of 100 to 150 years (and potential value in pseudo-autonomous dies being reusable even with changing emperors)
    I also look at the coins in the OP and it seems to me that the Senate on my coin even looks like Nero - I wondered if there was any pattern here but haven't investigated. I'd like to know more about the "cult of the Senate" and how that might show up in other, non-coin, evidence. No shortage of further opportunities for exploration.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2020
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  7. Jims Coins

    Jims Coins Supporter! Supporter

    Last edited: Apr 3, 2020
  8. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    I cannot comment in this context - but I certainly recognise the idea! For a while when I was trying to figure out jitals similar problems cropped up. Around 1200 to 1220 or so two powers were contending for Afghanistan. The Khwarezm Shah and the Ghorids. To distinguish them - at the very bottom of the inscription it ought to say Muhammed Sultan (Khwarezm Shah) or Muhammed bin Sam (Ghorid). In an awful lot of cases the last bit was just scribble, as if the die engraver was hedging his bets. Added to that, we have some fascinating private letters found hidden in a cave from 1211. They are from a guy whose job it apparently was to buy up old silver bullion coins using debased fiat jitals. He complains that he is frighted and seems to want an armed guard. But also, although his is involved in the financing of the Ghorid side, he apparently gives the superior title to the Khwarezm Shah, as if he knew total defeat was already predictable (events proved him right).

    Actually, in the end I abandoned the idea in that case, but other anonymous issues during the wars with the Mongols, and later coins at Delhi citing only the caliph, both again look like cities or mints might be hedging their bets in uncertain times.

    Rob T

    PS - its nice to see a "votive deposit" that actually is a votive deposit!
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2020
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  9. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Interesting writeup and coin, @Sulla80. Below is a pseudo-autonomous issue from Seleucia Pieria that I found interesting because the obverse legend (some of it missing) reads [ΙЄ]Ρ ΑϹΥΛ ΑΥΤΟΝ[ΟΜΟΥ], which translates to "holy, inviolable and autonomous". Not withstanding the trumpeting, these were apparently issued at the same time the city also struck coins with the same reverse type but the portrait of Trajan on the obverse. I don't have an example of one of those, but of the two varieties, the one with the imperial portrait is more common.

    SYRIA Seleucis - AE20 Pseudo Autonomous Baetyl Zeus 3987.jpg
    SYRIA, Seleucis and Pieria
    AE20. 5.89g, 20mm. SYRIA, Seleucis and Pieria, Seleucia Pieria. Pseudo-autonomous issue, time of Trajan, AD 98-117. RPC III 3791. O: [ΙЄ]Ρ ΑϹΥΛ ΑΥΤΟΝ[ΟΜΟΥ], Turreted, veiled and draped bust of Tyche to right, palm branch over her right shoulder. R: СЄΛЄΥΚЄωΝ ΠЄΙЄΡΙΑС - ZЄYC / KACIOC, Sacred stone of Zeus Kasios with fillet attached within shrine consisting of four pillars supporting a pyramidal roof surmounted by an eagle; to lower right, Є
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  10. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    That's an impressive exercise in attribution...
    Thanks, @zumbly, this parallelism between portrait, and pseudo-autonomous, as well as better understanding how the Roman Senate was "deified" have captured my curiousity - appreciate the added example...
    (Linked ACSearch Image)
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  11. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    and clearly very interesting example for pseudo autonomous...
    These "titles" seem to be have long standing meaning in Seleucis and Pieria (or at least Seleucis)
    • ιερα or “holy” granted to Seleukea in 145 BC
    • ιερα και ασυλοσ or “holy and inviolable” granted in c. 138 BC
    • αυτονομος or free declared in 109 BC and confirmed by Pompey the Great in 64 BC when he created the province of Syria
    Interesting to see other uses αυτονομος on provincial coins: I am left with a question of whether these were long standing honorific titles associated with the region (one of them granted by a Roman leader), and not necessarily a declaration in contrast to Roman rule.

    This coin from Dora, Phoenicia (ex ACSearch) "autonomous" with Trajan's portrait on the obverse:
    or this one of Trajan from Cappadocia, Tyana (ex ACSearch)
    add the to the picture that the word αυτονομος co-exists with honoring the Roman emperor. I don't know enough to interpret - interested to learn more.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2020
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